The Grace Youth Forum on Homosexuality

Introduction: The Power of Pop Culture

Take a quick look at the world in which we live. Human sexuality—whether proper or improper—is on full display. The issue of homosexuality is clearly representative of this truth. The homosexual lifestyle and agenda are everywhere from what we watch on television to the music we listen to in the car. And don't think that it hasn't affected our students, because it has. Homosexuality is a prominent topic in the hallways and the classroom. No wonder that when we asked our students "what questions do you have?" many of them responded with questions regarding this issue. So, on Wednesday April 25, 2012, Grace Youth hosted The Forum on Homosexuality.

Our goals were two-fold. One, we wanted to give a clear picture of what the Bible has to say about this topic. Two, we wanted to help our students understand how to talk about it with their friends. Along the way, we asked some interesting poll questions, watched some TV clips, and answered some tough questions. We pray that the evening was helpful for our students navigating a difficult world.

The issue of homosexuality is not a new problem, but over the past forty of fifty years, we have begun to think about it differently. If we took our cues from the culture, then we'd surely believe it was a normal, accepted lifestyle right alongside heterosexuality. Of course we don't want to take our cues from culture, but we must respect the power popular opinion holds. Abraham Lincoln said this statement regarding public sentiment, and it still holds true today:

In this age, in this country, public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing can succeed. Whoever molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes, or pronounces judicial decisions.

So what should we think about homosexuality? How should we respond? We start first with what the Bible has to say.

The Bible on Homosexuality

The Bible is not silent on this issue. One of our values of Grace Church is "our foundation is life-related Bible teaching." On the topic such as homosexuality, this value is especially important because in the midst of the swirling changes of culture, the Bible stands firm.

Main Idea

The Bible repeatedly and consistently condemns the desires and actions of homosexuality as sinful, and only be radically reinterpreting the text can someone change this conclusion.

Passages to Consider

There are several key passages that affirm this main idea. We could spend dozens of sessions on these passages, but we had to move quickly through them last night. Each tried to give one summary idea for each passage. Some of the ideas we expanded on more than others.

God's Created Order (Genesis 1—2)

Summary: In God's original creation, man and woman were created in a complementary way to function in a "one flesh" marriage union.

Genesis 1 and 2 provide a foundation upon which the rest of the Bible comments. In Genesis 1:26–27, we learn that both male and female are created in the image of God. (This has huge implications for what it means to be male and female!) Genesis 2 gives us more detail about the creation of man and woman. God gives man a job (tend the garden and name the animals), but among those animals the man cannot find someone suitable; he can find no good complement. God knows his, and decides to make a "helper fit for him" (Genesis 2:18). When Adam sees Eve, he bursts into song (Genesis 2:23) because he recognizes that she is what he lacks. Genesis 2:24 offers a theological perspective on the issue: the complement of man and woman finds its full expression in the "one flesh" marriage union.

Genesis 1 and 2 provide the natural order: the way God's creation was designed to function. What is "natural" is that which is designed by the Creator. All other biblical passages look back to this account as the normal way sexuality is expressed: by the complement that comes from one man and one woman.

But after the sin of Genesis 3, sin skews human sexuality.

Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1–29)

Summary: God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their widespread practice of homosexuality.

The first direct commentary on homosexuality comes in the account of Abraham's nephew Lot while living in Sodom. Two angels arrive to visit (and save) Lot, and the "men of the city" seek to have homosexual relations with these two angels whom they believe to be men.

And [the men of the city] called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” (Genesis 19:5)

We know that the men of the city do not want simply to "be acquainted with" these angels because of Lot's alternative suggestion in Genesis 19:8 and Jude's comment in Jude 7. The men of the city want to engage is sexual activity with the angels. This homosexual desires seems to characterize the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and leads to their destruction.

The Holiness Code (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13)

Summary: God's law condemned homosexuality as morally offensive and evil.

God desired for his nation of Israel to be set apart from its pagan neighbors. This was true in the area of sexual morality, thus God gave Israel the law to ensure this would happen.

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13)

Homosexuality is clearly an "abomination" to the Lord. An "abomination" is something detested and hated by God.

This action is morally evil because it is a direct distortion of God's created, natural order. God's creation has distorted their purpose. It's similar to using Leonard da Vinci's painting The Mona Lisa as a doorstop! Da Vinci would surely be upset, because his painting was meant for something so much more!

Contrary to Nature (Romans 1:18–32)

Summary: Because humanity rejected God, God allowed humanity to sin through the dishonoring of their bodies and unnatural homosexual activity.

In a discussion of how God's wrath is revealed, Paul affirms that God allows humanity to indulge in their sin of idol worship which led to even more sin including the "dishonoring of their bodies" (Romans 1:24). Paul then expands on what he means by dishonoring:

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26–27)

Men and women exchanged the natural, created order with that which is contrary to nature. Homosexuality is evidenced as giving in to dishonorable passions and sin.

Forfeiting the Kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9–10)

Summary: Paul affirms that those who practice homosexuality will be among many sinners who will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Paul characterizes "men who practice homosexuality" (1 Corinthians 6:9) as unrighteous. This translation is a combination of two words which encompass homosexual activity. Homosexual activity is not tolerated in heaven, and Paul commands the church in Corinth that it should not be tolerated in their midst either.

The Law for Sinners (1 Timothy 1:9–10)

Summary: God's law was given to restrain sin; among his examples of sin, Paul lists homosexuality.

Paul affirms that to practice homosexuality is evidence of being "lawless and disobedient" (1 Timothy 1:9). Furthermore, this practice is "contrary to sound doctrine" (v. 10). Paul knows that God's created order was established in a heterosexual way, and only by a distortion of this natural creation did humanity engage in homosexuality.

Conclusion to the Bible on Homosexuality

Much more could be said about each of these passages, but suffice to say again that the Bible is repeated and clear: homosexual desires and actions are sinful. There are "reinterpretations" to each of the points we have made, but these attempts to re-engineer the Bible as pro-homosexual fall short.

Our Response to Homosexuality

So what do we do with this biblical knowledge? Does it give us the prerogative to yell, scream, and generally be hateful because we understand the "truth"? Of course not! Some would use the Bible to promote hate-campaigns against homosexuals with picket lines and signs that say "God hates you!" But this is a sinful distortion of how Christ commands us to engage the world.

Main Idea

The Bible repeatedly and consistently teaches us to show grace and love to others.

Points to Consider

In dealing with our friends, or the world, on this issue, we should keep two important points in mind. It is a terrible reality that some "religious people" do an exceptionally "good" job of pushing away homosexual individuals looking for hope.

We Represent Christ

Summary: we represent Christ in all we do.

All of our works should lead others to glorify God in heaven (Matthew 5:16). We should talk about this issue in a way that points others to God. All individuals are made in the image of God, and no one is defined by the sin in their lives. Jesus gave us an example of how to love those who many times seemed unloveable. In fact, Jesus spent so much time with the "sinners" that he was considered one of them! There is a way to hold firm in our convictions that the Bible calls homosexuality sin, and still minister to those in the midst of that sin.

The Grace of God

Summary: we have to remember that no one is outside the grace of God.

God can redeem anyone! We all share in a background that was sinful, yet we can be rescued from that life of sin. Sometimes, we don't understand the way in which God operates (Isaiah 55:8), but we can be assured he is working in the world. God's love is open to all. Paul reminds us that even as sin increases, God's grace grows even greater (Romans 5:20). Jesus paid it all for all people. Regardless of our background, we are all in the same boat: we need Jesus!

Conclusion to Our Response to Homosexuality

In 1 Corinthians 6, we saw earlier how Paul listed "men who practice homosexuality" as those outside the fellowship of God. But here's the full quotation:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9–11)

The Corinthians themselves were known as those who fell into this "vice list" of sins, yet Paul proudly boasts that this is only who they were in the past. God—and only God—can change our hearts! Our attitude should reflect that of Christ, who died for all sinners, including those who practice homosexuality. You could be the opportunity to show Christ's love, are you willing to do this?

Conclusion: A Way Forward

Based upon these biblical conclusions regarding homosexuality and our attitude towards ministering to those in the midst of it, we finished the evening by pointing this way forward:

  1. We will be a safe place to struggle. Because we know that we are all sinners, the walls of Grace Church are not "off limits" to those who struggle with sexual sin. Our youth group will be a safe place to honestly struggle through sin, and with the help of the Holy Spirit and by the grace of God, we will seek to help those in need.
  2. We will not tolerate inappropriate conversations. A safe place to struggle cannot include name-calling or poor jokes.
  3. We will not tolerate inappropriate behaviors. Picking on students who struggle with sin, no matter what sin, disregards our mandate to follow Christ.
  4. We will not tolerate stereotyping. Just because a dude doesn't like sports or a girl does like sports, that does not make them gay! We will not allow stereotypes to be discussed or promoted.
  5. We will remain confidential unless necessary to do otherwise. As a safe place to struggle, we are committed to your confidentiality unless there is a legal reason to do otherwise (such as the possibility of you hurting yourself or others). We—as your church family—are committed to your spiritual growth and will keep any conversations confidential if possible.

Further Help

  • Desert Stream Ministries (www.desertstream.org)
  • Living Hope Ministries (www.livehope.org)
  • Love Won Out (www.lovewonout.org)
  • Steven Gerali, What Do I Do When Teenagers Question Their Sexuality? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010)
  • Andreas J. Köstenberger and David W. Jones, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation 2nd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010)
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